There is no question that over the past few years the fashion industry has become more transparent than ever before. In the age of eco and social awareness, knowing what you wear is a must. Labels on our garment have become more descriptive, large fast-fashion companies have created sustainable initiatives and we, the consumer, are more aware of manufacturing processes. This has, all of a sudden become just as important as the latest style and trends. Because of this, more retail businesses are taking the sustainable approach: the uncomplicated option of pairing good, natural materials with fair, ethical production.
The introduction of natural fibres like hemp, linen, organic cotton, bamboo, silk– the list goes on – opens up an array of opportunities as a female consumer to make better eco-friendly decisions for our wardrobes. The best part is that we don’t have to compromise on the quality, feel or performance of our garments.
To give you a better understanding of what you wear, here is a list of the pros and cons of a few materials taking over the retail market to date and how you can look out for these things on the labels when you are out shopping next.
In the fashion industry, bamboo is considered the eco-friendly fabric to beat. It has a good reputation for being 3-4 times more absorbent than traditional cotton fabric. It is durable and is naturally soft like silk and hemp. To grow, it does not require harsh chemical pesticides and fertilizers and requires very little water. On top of this, if sourced sustainably, does not affect the panda’s food supply. However, it is the process of softening the wooden bamboo stems into fabric that requires harsh chemicals to break it down. These chemicals are very toxic especially when you consider they are being worn against our bodies.
Many companies are using more benign chemicals, and ‘closed loop’ processing, meaning that the chemicals are bring captured and reused multiple times, reducing the waste associated with this process. Look for certifications like Oeko-Tex, Soil Association, SKAL or KRAV on labels and websites. These are third certifiers who verify whether company practices are environmentally friendly.
There is a multitude of products created with authentic natural cottons, such as underwear, socks, skirts, pants, sheets, towels, and more. And while organic cotton is a step in the right direction, is still a far cry from the other eco-friendly yarns being spun across the world. Companies aim to reduce pesticide and insecticide use by working with organic cotton crops. However, the organic part in organic cotton often ends at harvest and what isn’t considered is the cleaning process which involves de-sizing, scouring and bleaching. Not to mention that to grow 1kg of cotton (enough to make one pair of jeans) it requires between 7,000 and 29,000 litres of water.
With the ability to absorb up to 30% of moisture, silk is known for being light weight, breathable and hypoallergenic. Silk comes from the cocoon of silkworms. Silkworms are traditionally boiled with the silk, but peace silk allows the silkworms to hatch before using the cocoon, making it animal friendly and vegetarian. Best of all silk is gorgeous to wear - it is robust, temperature regulating and is biodegradable and recyclable.
Recycled and up-cycled materials
Fabrics such as Amni Soul Eco are made from recycled plastic. Amni Soul Eco, which is a polyamide with biodegradable additives making it completely eco-friendly, breaking down at the end of its lifecycle. The material is highly functional just like any polyamide fabric. It is super soft, durable, breathable and comfortable and high performing, making it perfect for underwear and activewear.